Financing your studies
Studying while raising children is a challenge when organizing a course schedule. It also requires you to think about how you will finance this new phase of your life. This page contains the most important information on financial aid.
BAföG—Federal Education and Training Assistance Act
For students raising one or more children, there are several special conditions in addition to the general BAföG regulations:
- Childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungszuschlag): Students whose household consists of at least one child aged ten or younger can apply for a flatrate childcare allowance (€113 for the first child, €85 per child thereafter) in addition to the regular BAföG payments.
- Extension of maximum period of BAföG funding: Pregnancy, raising or caring for your own disabled or ill child under the age of ten are grounds for extending the period of BAföG funding over and above the normal maximum period of funding:
- Pregnancy: one semester
- For the first five years of the child's life: one semester per year of child's life
- For the sixth and seventh years of life: one semester in total
- For the eighth and ninth years of life: one semester in total
- Graded work: Upon application, students may submit graded work normally required by the beginning of the fourth semester at a later point on the grounds of pregnancy, or caring for or raising a child aged ten or under.
- Child tax exemptions: If you earn your own income, study, and raise children simultaneously, your tax exemption increases in accordance with the number of children you have, allowing you to earn more without a reduction in BAföG. Currently, each child who does not earn any income (aside from the child benefit or Kindergeld), receives a child tax exemption of €485 per month.
- BAföG repayments: Former students in the repayment phase, which begins five years subsequent to the maximum period of funding, may apply for exemption from repayments if they earn a low income. This exemption means that students can defer repayments without accruing interest. On top of the basic tax exemption of €1,070, it is possible to claim a further exemption of €485 per child. Information on BAföG funding in such cases is available here:
- Advising: You will find general information on applying for BAföG as well as details of your individual contact person in the BAföG Office in Hamburg on the homepage of the Studierendenwerk.
Child benefit (Kindergeld)
In addition to minors, students under twenty-five completing secondary school or a professional program—which includes university study— qualify for the child benefit, provided they do not work more than twenty hours per week.
Please apply for the child benefit for yourself and your child/children at the Family Benefits Department (Familienkasse) of the responsible Employment Agency office (Agentur für Arbeit). You must hand in the completed application form together with the child's/children's birth certificate(s), proof of enrollment, and your passport where necessary.
Depending on their residence status, international students who do not receive comparable benefits from their home country may be eligible for the child benefit. IMPORTANT: A student residence permit does not entitle you to a child benefit!
Child benefit application forms are available here:
- Child benefit application forms on the homepage of the Employment Agency (in German only).
Generally, mothers and fathers, regardless of marriage status, are obliged to financially support all of their children.
Child support payments are based upon the income of the parent who is under obligation to provide cash maintenance and determined in accordance with the Düsseldorfer Tabelle (Düsseldorf Table). Accordingly, the minimum payment for children five and under is €317; for children between six and eleven it is €364 and for children beween twelve and seventeen it is €426. Adolescents who have reached majority and have a legal claim to cash maintenance because they live on their own are entitled to monthly support of €670.
However, parents are obligated to pay child support only if their income suffices to cover both their own living expenses and child support payments. The current deductible for working parents obligated to provide maintenance for their children is €900 per month. The monthly deductible for unemployed parents is €770. Accordingly, parents who earn less than these monthly minimums are exempt from the obligation to pay child support. In such cases, the single parent sharing a household with the child/children may apply for a maintenance advance at the Youth Office.
A voluntary committment to pay child support can be submitted free of charge at the responsible office of Child Welfare Services. Check the municipal authority search engine for contact information for your local office. If the parents cannot come to an amicable agreement concerning child support, the maintenance obligation can be settled by means of a family court order.
If the monthly earnings of the parent obligated to provide child support exceed the respective deductible (working parents: €900 per month; unemployed parents: €770 per month), child support must be paid.
Federal Foundation Mother and Child
The Federal Foundation Mother and Child assists expectant mothers in financial emergencies by providing financial support for baby clothes and equipment, pregnancy clothing, moving costs, special midwife services, or childcare.
Pregnant students must meet the follwing requirements to receive financial assistance:
- They must be resident in Germany.
- Hamburg must be their principal place of residence (for applications submitted at counseling centers for pregnant women in Hamburg).
- They must provide proof of pregnancy, e.g., Mutterpass (document issued by physicians which includes pregnancy details such as blood group, rhesus factor, etc.)
- They must submit proof of a financial emergency. The counseling center accepting the application must verify the applicant's income. Monthly net earnings plus child and housing benefits, alimony, and other support are taken into account.
- You must apply for assistance before the child is born!
The payment period and funding amount granted depend primarily upon the applicant's personal circumstances.
Applications for funding from the Federal Foundation Mother and Child must be submitted within the framework of a counseling program or conflict management program for pregnant women. Currently, four denominational pregnancy counseling centers in Hamburg offer their services (Applicants do not have to belong to the respective denomination!):
- Beratungsstelle für Frauen, Familien und Schwangere
Sozialdienst kath. Frauen e.V. Hamburg-Altona
Schomburgstraße 120, 22767 Hamburg
Tel: +49 40 43 31 56
- Beratungsstelle für Frauen, Familien und Schwangere
Caritasverband für Hamburg e.V.
Danziger Straße 66, 20099 Hamburg
Tel: +49 40 280 140-78
- Schwangeren und Schwangerschaftskonfliktberatung
Königstraße 54, 22767 Hamburg
Tel: +49 40 306 20-208
- Beratungsstelle für Frauen, Familien und Schwangere
Sozialdienst kath. Frauen Hamburg e.V.
Wartenau 5, 22089 Hamburg
Tel: +49 40 25 49 25 91
IMPORTANT: Advising and applications require prior arrangement by telephone!
Federal parental benefit (Bundeselterngeld)
Students are eligible for a parental benefit during the first twelve or fourteen months of a child's life if they are resident in Germany, live with the child in the same household, and care for the child themselves. Students are not required to interrupt their studies and are eligible regardless of the number of hours per week they devote to their studies.
If students with children also work, they may not work more than thirty hours per week.
Non-German nationals may also be eligible for the parental benefit if they:
- are citizens of EU member states, countries in the European Economic Area, or Switzerland, and reside or work in Germany.
- hold a permanent residency permit that also allows them to work (e.g., Niederlassungserlaubnis, Aufenthaltserlaubnis mit Arbeitserlaubnis).
Parental benefit amounts
The parental benefit compensates for loss of income and is calculated as follows:
- 65% of your prior income, if your average monthly net salary was €1,240 or higher prior to the birth.
- 66% of your prior income, if your average monthly net salary was less than €1,220 prior to the birth.
- 67% of your prior income, if your average monthly net salary was between €1,000 and €1,200 prior to the birth.
If your net income prior to the birth was €1,000 or less, compensation is granted on an incremental scale of up to 100%. The minimum parental benefit is €300, the maximum €1,800 per month.
Please note: Parents who do not work also qualify for the parental benefit—currently a minimum of €300 per month.
Both partners are eligible for parental leave
One parent can claim the parental benefit for a maximum of twelve months. Single parents may take up to fourteen months. Parents can extend the payment period to fourteen months if both partners take leave. This provision was introduced in 2007 and has since motivated many fathers to take exactly two months of paid parental leave. This provision was therefore referred to as "paternal leave" (Vätermonate), erroneously lending the impression that fathers were permitted to take only two months of leave. Of course, this is not the case. Both parents can take leave as they see fit, determining who takes leave when and for how long.
You will find further information on eligibility and the application procedure at your district office (Bezirksamt).
Housing benefit (Wohngeld)
Housing benefits are granted as rent supplements only. It may not be used to cover general living expenses.You are legally eligible for housing benefits if your income meets at least the standard unemployment II (ALG II) payment rate. The benefit amount depends on the number of household members, the total income, and the expenses for rent (rent exclusive of heating costs plus utilities).
Students are not eligible for housing benefits if they:
- prove eligible for BAföG and live in an apartment of their own or share a household with at least one person who is ?
- receive transfer payments such as unemployment ALG II or social benefit payments (Sozialgeld) in accordance with Book II of the German Cocial Code (SGB II).
- receive support in accordance with the Asylum-Seekers' Benefit Act (AsylbLG).
Because: These payments already factor in housing costs.
The following persons can make a legal for housing benefits:
- Students who do not qualify for BAföG funding, e.g., because they are enrolled at unaccredited institutions, whose reasons for changing their major are inconclusive or who have exceeded the age limit or maximum funding period.
- Students who receive or have been granted BAföG funding as a degree completion loan (full loan).
- Children of students (including unborn children) who do not receive social benefit payments in accordance with SGB II (Sozialgeld).
- Households with at least one household member eligible for housing benefit payments, i.e. not receiving BAföG, ALG II, social benefit payments (Sozialgeld SGB II), etc.
The Hamburger Behörde für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt (state office of urban develoment and environment) has published two brochures which contain all crucial information on housing benefit: Überblick mit den wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten zum Wohngeld (all info housing benefit at a glimpse (PDF, in German only) and Merkblatt zum Wohngeld für Studierende und Auszubildende (brochure for students, apprentices, and trainees (PDF, in German only).
Your responsible housing benefits office (Wohngeldstelle) and all details on applying, are available on the homepage of the City of Hamburg.
Parenting students in temporary financial straits may bridge the gap with an interest-free loan. Information is available at the respective financial institution.
PLEASE REMEMBER: All loans must be repaid!
Loans from Studierendenwerk (student services)
Studierendenwerk Hamburg provides various types of interest-free loans for parenting students in need. These loans are designated to help students with children cover specific study-related expenses.
- BAföG bridge loans
Students eligible for BAföG can apply for a BAföG bridge loan—up to €360 per month—if they are find themselves in temporary financial difficulties due to delays in the processing of their BAföG application. This loan may be applied for and granted repeatedly.
- Individual loan
Individual loans (€500 maximum) are designated for students in financial difficulties due to unexpected additional study expenses or the sudden loss or interruption of employment. Individual loans are only granted once!
- Bridge loan
Bridge loans (€300 maximum per month) are for students with financial difficulties because their BAföG or follow-up funding (e.g., degree completion grants etc.) have expired. The general bridge loan period is one semester. In special hardship cases the maximum loan period may be extended to two semesters.
- Degree completion loan
Degree completion loans (€500 maximum) target students in the degree completion phase who have registered for their final exams and will complete their degree within the following two semesters. Degree completion loans can only be granted if the student does not receive funding from additional sources, e.g, BAföG, government assistance, scholarships, fellowships, educational, or student loans. The usual loan period is one semester. In special hardship cases up to two semesters may be granted.
Further information about loans provided by Studierendenwerk Hamburg, in particular about application and acceptance procedures, is available at BeSt—financial advising for students (german only).
Using the unemployment benefit II (ALG II) as a loan
In special hardship cases—needy students in the degree completion stage who are barred from ALG II payments (see Arbeitslosengeld II)—may apply for means of subsistence in the form of an interest-free loan.
Additional information about application and acceptance procedures is available at your local job center, commonly known as "ARGE." For contact details of your responsible job center, please refer to the pages of the Employment Agency.
Maintenance advance (Unterhaltsvorschuss)
The single parent raising the child may apply for a maintenace advance for a maximum of six years at the responsible office of Child Welfare Services. Browse the municipal authority search engine.
Maintenance advances require that the child:
- is under twelve.
- resides primarily in Germany.
- lives with the single parent.
- does not receive child support or payments that do not meet standard needs as defined by the Düsseldorfer Tabelle (Düsseldorf Table).
The current maintenance advance payment is €133 per month for children up to six and €180 per month for children between the age sof six and twelve. Partial payments made by the parent obligated to pay child support will be deducted. Eligibility for a maintenance advance terminates if the single parent marries.
Single parents without German citizenship who are raising their children in Germany may be eligible for a maintenance advance if they can provide any of the following:
- residence permit
- combined residence and work permit for Germany
- proof of entitlement to asylum or recognition as a refugee in accordance with the Geneva Refugee Convention
- proof that they are EU nationals or nationals of the European Economic Area
IMPORTANT: Resident permits for study purposes only are insufficient! Turkish nationals excepted, as their student residence permits entitle them to apply for a maintenance advance in Germany.
Madame Courage—a project to support pregnant students and single mothers who are studying
Madame Courage helps single mothers lead independent lives with their children and gain qualifications for leadership postions.
To support single mothers and pregnant students, the Sozialdienst katholischer Frauen e.V. Hamburg Altona (Catholic women's association, SkF) and the ZONTA-Club Hamburg Hafen e.V. initiated the Madame Courage project, which is further supported by the Family Office at Universität Hamburg.
The project aims to provide financial and moral support to single mothers and pregnant students in the final phase of their studies. Support is non-denominational!
The first step: finishing a degree
Shortly before finishing a degree, many single mothers or pregnant students experience a crisis. Juggling childcare duties and exams can adversely affect the duration of studies or a student's final results. The situation can become dire if:
- BAföG can no longer be paid;
- claims to child support cannot be effectively enforced; or
- no further claims to state benefits or support can be made.
It is nearly impossible in this situation, so shortly before exams, to reconcile academic, family, and work obligations. This too often leads students to drop out of their studies and risk lower income, welfare dependency, and, ultimately, poverty in old age.
Previously, single parents in this situation had no place to turn in Hamburg. This is why the Zonta-Club Hamburg Hafen and the SkF Hamburg-Altona e.V. joined forces with Universität Hamburg to realize Madame Courage.
The benefits of Madame Courage
Support does not end when students obtain their degree. We also support recipients as they gain a professional foothold by providing contacts for internships and mentoring services.
For more information and application requirements, see the Madame Courage Website (in German only).
Scholarships are a convenient alternative for financing your studies because they generally do not need to be paid back. Please find further information and contact persons on campus on the serviceportal for studying in Hamburg.
Social benefit (Sozialgeld)
Relatives who are unemployable and living in a Bedarfsgemeinschaft (community of dependence) with employable household members in need may be eligible for social benefits (Sozialgeld) in accordance with § 28 SGB II of the German Social Code. This also applies to all children under fifteen whose parents are students. Requirements stipulate that both the student's income and that of the child (e.g., child benefit, alimony, child benefit supplement) must be lower than the basic social security benefit payment (Grundsicherung).
Social benefit payments are means-tested, i.e., household earnings as well as the assets of the community of dependence (Bedarfsgemeinschaft) are taken into account. Further information is available at the responsible job center (also called "ARGE"), where you can also apply for social benefits.
In order to find out which job center in Hamburg is responsible for you, please see the pages of the Employment Agency.
Supplementary child allowance (Kinderzuschlag)
Parents who can cove their own living expenses, but not those of their unmarried children under the age of twenty-five living with them, may be eligible to apply for a supplementary child allowance. This applies to all children who form a Bedarfsgemeinschaft (community of dependence) with their parents, including adopted children, foster children, and grandchildren.
The supplementary child allowance is means-tested, taking into account the earnings and assets of both parents and children. The maximum monthly allowance per child is €140 Euro.
Single and two-parent households are eligible for the supplementary child allowance under the following conditions:
- Parent's monthly earnings only reach the minimum monthly income limit or less (€900 for two-parent households, €600 for single parents).
- Parents' income and assets do not exceed the maximum income limit.
- Supplementary child allowance and housing benefit payments would cover the family's needs, so that they are not eligible for the unemployment benefit II (ALG II) or social benefit (Sozialhilfe) in accordance with Book XII of the German Social Code (SGB XII).
- Parents do not receive unemployment benefits (ALG II), social benefit payments (Sozialhilfe) in accordance with Book XII of the German Social Code (SGB XII) or social benefit payments (Sozialgeld) pertaining to § 28 Book II of the German Social Code (SGB II).
IMPORTANT: Students eligible for BAföG must fulfill special requirements in order to qualify for a child benefit supplement! Please contact the responsible office of the Family Benefits Department (Familienkasse).
You can apply for supplementary child allowance and for the child benefit at the Family Benefits Department of the Employment Agency. Visit the homepage of the City of Hamburg for contact information.
Unemployment benefit II (ALG II)
In principal, anyone deemed fit for gainful employment but in need of special assistance is eligible for the unemployment benefit II (ALG II, also called Hartz IV) in accordance with Book II of the German Social Code (SGB II ). If you meet the standard requirements of the job market (e.g., at least three hours of work per day) you are considered employable. If you cannot meet the demands of the job market due to disability or chronic disease, you are not considered employable.
Although students are generally deemed employable, they are not normall eligible for unemployment benefits II (ALG II, compare: § 7 (5) sentence 2 SGB II) because their student status entitles them to apply for BAföG. It is irrelevant whether they are simply eligible for or actually receive BAföG.
In special hardship cases, which must be proven beyond doubt, students may apply for a loan in accordance with § 7 (5) sentence 2 of Book II of the German Social Code (SGB II) to cover their own living expenses. REMEMBER: All loans must be repaid!
If they can prove need, pregnant students or students raising children may claim special benefits in accordance with § 27 SGB II. Application forms are available at your local job center (known as "ARGE"). In order to find out which job center is responsible for you, please see the homepage of the Employment Agency.
The individual ALG II payment is determined upon verification of the applicant's financial circumstances. Pregnant students and students raising children are eligible for the following benefit payments:
- Additional needs allowance for expectant mothers after the 12th week of pregnancy (in accordance with § 21 (2) Book II of the German Social Code (SGB II): 17% of the standard unemployment benefit II payment; intended to cover additional costs such as nutrition, hygiene, and travel expenses.
- Additional needs allowance for single parents (in accordance with § 21 (3) Book II of the German Social Code (SGB II): targets single parents who form a household with one or more children. If your household includes a child under the age of seven or three children under the age of sixteen, you may apply for for an additional needs allowance amounting to 36% of the standard unemployment benefit II payment.
- One-time needs (in accordance with § 23 (3) SGB II): Initial costs such as maternity wear, hospital and breastfeeding supplies, baby basics, including furniture and household appliances, may be refunded, at least in part, upon application.
PLEASE NOTE: You may apply for several additional needs allowances. The total amount granted depends on the addition principle of the individual allowances. The total may not exceed the maximum standard benefit amount.
Upon interruption of the degree program, e.g, when taking academic leave, etc., students cease to be eligible for BAföG and the exclusion regulation in accordance with § 7 (5) sentence 2 SGB II (see above) ceases to apply. As soon as academic leave becomes official (upon issue of amended enrollment certificate), students may apply for the unemployment benefit II (ALG II). PLEASE NOTE: Although students on academic leave are eligible for ALG II, they must nonetheless fulfill the following general ALG II requirements:
- They must be in need of financial assistance.
- They must face unreasonable hardship or lack of opportunity with regard to securing living expenses through work (in accordance with § 10 (1) point 3 SGB II).
- Neither parents nor partners have a primary maintenance obligation (please see § 33 (2) point 2b SGB II. In general, parents of students with children are exempt from maintenance obligations.